As protests of Friday's Iranian election and the victory proclamation by incumbent President Ahmadinejad rolls on for another day, one thing has become abundantly clear: tomorrow's newspaper is too late. Now that press have been all but escorted out of Iran, the world's news is coming minute-by-minute from the little micro-blogging (some say ego-stroking) site that could: Twitter.
Founded in 2006, Twitter now boasts millions of users, and according to Nielsen grew 1382 percent in the month of February alone. Previously written off as a tool for inane thoughts (my leg itches, what should I have for dinner, etc.), Twitter has emerged from its adolescence as an outlet for instantly sharing information with thousands (millions, countless numbers) of people.
Under the hashtag #iranelection, Twitter users have been both giving updates about the events unfolding in the Middle East (see a partial list of people tweeting from Iran) and people discussing the election and protests. The conditions in Tehran are worsening, and Twitter is literally the only way to consistently release information.
Twitter has become so crucial in current events that when scheduled maintenance to the site was supposed to happen Monday night, someone at the U.S. State Department called Twitter to ask that they reschedule it and not cut off one of the only channels of communication out of the country, especially after other Web sites, newspapers and phone service had been hacked or shut down.
People are using Twitter not only to update others about times and places for protests (tomorrow there will be a pro-Moussavi protest in Haft Teer Square at 4 p.m., protesters will bring flowers to give to the Basij) or to give information about the things they are seeing, but also to check in on one another. Iranian Twitter user persiankiwi has sent hundreds of messages from secret locations for days straight as well as updates before going to bed or going offline so that people don't worry that he or she is injured or dead when the stream of messages stops. ABC correspondent Jim Sciutto is in Iran and sent a message this morning that he was "up & all safe" after someone worried that he hadn't updated in a few hours.
Since Twitter is the only first-hand reporting we're going to see out of Iran for a while, it's a good idea to be familiar with some guidelines for digesting news over Twitter. The news is short-term, but it's already becoming clear that the implications of this revolution (both Iranian and Twitter) will be long-lasting. Will the next war be the first where reporting via text messaging becomes the norm?
"The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" first popped up in the 1970s, but surely, at least for now, the revolution will be Twittered.
See more of Air America's Iran election coverage.